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No Concessions Tag

noconcessionsTwenty years ago, more than two million Brits tried to buy tickets to see Oasis at Knebworth, and 250,000 concertgoers experienced the band at its height over two evenings. “Two nights sold out,” comments Noel Gallagher, as footage from aerial cameras captures the enormous audience. No stranger to hyperbole, he adds, “We could’ve sold out seven. We might still be playing!”

Tomorrow night only, experience peak Oasis on the big screen in Supersonic, which begins and ends at Knebworth. The documentary spends much of its two hours in reduced

noconcessionsSeptember is pretty much a dead zone for movies, but the industry started bringing out the bodies anyway. From now through awards season we’ll be getting entries from the top (Natalie Portman as Jackie) to the, umm, bottom (King Cobra, the story of gay porn star  Brent Corrigan).

Sully pretty much salvaged last month’s boxoffice. It’s not hard to see why–it has uplift, tension, and Tom Hanks in its favor. The “miracle on the Hudson” is excitingly reenacted. With my infant daughter on my lap in January 2009 I remember watching the local news reports roll in, awestruck at the accomplishment.

Trouble is, the “miracle” only lasted 208 seconds. That leaves Clint Eastwood’s account with

noconcessionsIt happens every April–movies, movies, and more movies crash into theaters and onto VOD, clamoring for attention before tentpole season begins. What to see? Besides my personal best of the year, some still playing (and one yet to open), here’s a rundown.

Musician biopics–Hank Williams (I Saw the Light), Miles Davis (Miles Ahead), and Nina Simone (Nina) have been off-key this year. Better is Born to be Blue, with Ethan Hawke more than credible as the heroin-addled Chet Baker, in an impressionistic account of the trumpeter’s comeback after dealers

noconcessionsI hate to be the guy who walks out of a late night screening of the weekend’s blockbuster to say “Jesus, that was flat-out terrible,” but, Jesus, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is flat-out terrible. Ballyhooed for years, marketed to death for months, the actual thing was bound to disappoint. But did it have to disappoint so badly?

The brutal reviews have been too kind. Maybe it’ll make a billion dollars, and launch the parade of spinoffs and sequels that are constantly, exasperatingly signposted throughout. But if I can spare anyone

noconcessionsThere are two components to the Academy Awards. One is the awards show, this Sunday night on ABC. I feel for returning host Chris Rock, who will have to be very deft indeed to navigate the program through the shoals of controversy it’s found itself in. #OscarsSoWhite threatens #OscarsSoEarnest, with much hand-wringing and regret over diversity. Well-intended it will be, necessary it will be–but, please, let’s have a few jokes, too.

Then there are the awards themselves, which after a longer-than-usual period of fluidity and second-guessing have solidified into a winning slate. Or seem to have solidified–there may be surprises yet. Bear in mind that while I’ve won my Oscar pool over the last few years it’s usually with 17 or 18 correct guesses, so if you have a

noconcessionsCall it War and Precipitation. Sandwiched between the broader releases of Kung Fu Panda 3 and Zootopia is this Canadian-produced animated feature, which is now playing in a few theaters nationwide. Based on a story popular among children of our Northern neighbor, Snowtime! is an adaptation of a Quebecois live-action hit from 1984, known Stateside as The Dog Who Stopped the War. At home, it received a bells and whistles 3D release and was a success. Here, it’s natural home will be home video, but if you’ve already taken your kids to see Po and it happens to be

noconcessionsDeadpool is like a teaser for a Trump presidency–loud, boorish, and stupid. Stuck with the aging X-Men and the not-so-Fantastic Four, the poor cousins at the Fox branch of the Marvelverse have taken the latest entrant in the superhero sweepstakes in a rare R-rated direction, and the results are grungier, slobbier, and meaner than the more tasteful product that rolls off the Disney assembly lines.

Deadpool, the transformed persona of the motormouthed mercenary Wade Wilson, has a tortured history in the comics, and a briefer one onscreen. His antics enlivened the rock-bottom X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), and, as a reward, despite career reversals, Ryan Reynolds is back to play him. Last seen

noconcessionsTwenty years ago, Rumble in the Bronx proved an unexpected hit in the US, and Jackie Chan, a star everywhere but here, saw his Hollywood fortunes rise. Jet Li followed in his footsteps, and in 2008 the two were paired in The Forbidden Kingdom. On his own, Chan would have one more success, in the remake of The Karate Kid (2010), and Li joined The Expendables. As they aged and the market shifted, however, their careers mostly returned to Asia–the two excellent Raid movies, from Indonesia, and films starring Thailand’s gifted but erratic Tony Jaa, didn’t see much mainstream action here.

Enter a new dragon–Donnie Yen. Ip Man 3, which goes into release today, isn’t going to command the thousands of screens Chan and Li did in their prime. And, at age 52, with a

noconcessionsThe Force Awakens…more slowly for some than for most. Unless I write this in Mandarin, for a Chinese audience that won’t see it until the weekend, there’s no point in reviewing the new Star Wars movie–the bones have been picked clean. It’s like the first one, or the fourth one. I saw it four times on Christmas Day, two weeks ago. It’s made $1.6 billion without any mainland Chinese seeing it.  Han Solo’s

But I can update one of my more popular pieces, written almost four years ago, on the 35th anniversary of the movie I knew as Star Wars, but which my kids know as Star Wars: A New Hope. (The first one to me, the fourth one to them.) Including the deathless line: “It’s best that the show is over.”

Not hardly. Four billion forked over to George Lucas by Disney later (cheap) and here we are, one movie into a trio of sequels, with three spinoffs set to go. Director J.J. Abrams had to thread carefully

noconcessionsThe David O. Russell who made the edgy Flirting with Disaster (1996) and Three Kings (1999) is a different David O. Russell from the one who makes hit movies with Jennifer Lawrence today. It’s obviously a winning combination, sweetened with Oscar nominations and an Academy Award for her for Silver Linings Playbook (2012). But I’m immune to their chemistry, finding that film hopelessly contrived and the followup, American Hustle (2013) borderline silly, a game of movie star dress-up adapted from true events. I got that sinking feeling pretty quickly with their latest, Joy, which begins with, and occasionally returns to, scenes from a banal soap opera, stiffly

noconcessionsA funny thing happened to comedy directors Jay Roach (of the Austin Powers movies and Meet the Parents) and Adam McKay (Anchorman)–they became political filmmakers. For HBO, Roach made Recount (2008) and Game Change (2012), and now has the biopic Trumbo in release. McKay, who directed his longtime collaborator Will Ferrell in the pointed Broadway satire You’re Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush (2009), returns to the arena with an adaptation of Michael Lewis’ bestseller about the financial meltdown, The Big Short.

Both new films show the advantage of a light touch, and the downside. Trumbo, from the life of the blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter, is a lively example of the “movies about movies and moviemakers” genre that springs up every awards season, but almost too cartoonish, and in simplifying a complex history slurs Edward G. Robinson and John Wayne, whose involvement in the era wasn’t so clearcut. Realizing we’ll soon be drowning

noconcessionsEight observations about The Hateful Eight, which opens Christmas Day.

If you think you’ll recoil from the words “nigger,” “bitch,” “fuck,” and other obscenities, often (and I do mean often) colorfully combined for about 90 minutes, if (after an intermission) you think you’ll shrink from torture, dismemberment (teeth, testicles, etc.), and tremendous bloody violence (and more obscenities) for another 90 minutes…suffice it to say, The Hateful Eight is not a safe space for you this holiday season.

If you think you can make it without struggle, there are compensations. Viewed as a roadshow presentation, filmed in a widescreen format dormant for 50 years, cinephiles can get their geek on, enjoying the texture of

noconcessionsUnlike some film critics, I have no outstanding Ron Howard issues. Maybe A Beautiful Mind (2001) was too on the nose as Oscar bait, and, yes, he directs with an audience and not any kind of auteurist ranking foremost in mind, but “A Ron Howard Movie” on the big screen doesn’t bug me. He’s hit doubles (Splash, Cocoon), and triples (Apollo 13), and, with his last film, Rush (2013), a home run, one of the best movies ever made about competitive sports. Reuniting with that film’s star, Chris Hemsworth, for an adaptation of one of my favorite recent history books, Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea (2001)–ahoy, mateys!

And he’s made from it…A Ron Howard Movie. One whose release was pushed back from March to today, which is always suspicious

noconcessionsSylvester Stallone was 30 when Rocky, which he wrote and starred intook critics and audiences by surprise in 1976. As Rocky’s trainer, Burgess Meredith was 69 when he received an Oscar nomination for the film. Now, at age 69 himself, Stallone steps outside the ring–not for Rocky VII (or would that be Rocky Balboa II?), but for Creed. And the new duties, which find the beloved palooka assisting another fighter and extending a 40-year-old franchise in an unexpected and rewarding new direction, fit him like a fresh pair of boxing gloves.

Stallone, who graduated to directing the bulk of the sequels, has never been the best manager

noconcessions(00)7 reactions to reactions about Spectre. (Like you need to read another review at this late date.)

Worst theme song ever.

Not hardly! Does no one remember Madonna’s “Die Another Day,” or Jack White and Alicia Keys’ “Another Way to Die”? “Moonraker?” Probably not, and probably no one will remember Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall” as a Bond theme, either. But, lush and pretty and falsetto-y as it is, it works just fine as a Sam Smith song, and it’s the kind of song I can picture the Grammy winner singing in concert. (From what I gather, many artists who aren’t Shirley Bassey walk away from their themes.) And, by debuting at No. 1 in the UK, which has never had a Bond theme reach the top (not even our chart-topping “A View to a Kill”)  it did what it was supposed to do. (Here it debuted at No. 71, then fell off. Still, Smith has the last laugh

noconcessionsThere are two basic constituencies for The Peanuts Movie. One is today’s kids, who know Charles M. Schulz’s creations through reruns of their many animated specials, four prior feature films, maybe productions of the stage musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and of course the merchandising. To offer two reactions from that camp: It skewed a little old for my 4-year-old son, who enjoyed Snoopy but was a bit fidgety during the rest, yet delighted my 7-year-old daughter.

The other constituency is yesteryear’s kids, like, me. We knew Peanuts as a “comic strip,” printed daily in something called “newspapers,” and read it faithfully, buying collections of the cartoonist’s life work in book form. We knew

noconcessions The best movie to see this Halloween season isn’t at the movies. Correction: Bone Tomahawk is on one, allegedly bedbug-ridden screen here in New York City, but it’ll be gone by Mischief Night. So it goes in the turbulent and ever-shifting marketplace for off-the-grid indies. It is, however, easily accessed at home.*

Going out to attend horror movies this past month has been a bust. OK, I skipped the Hotel Transylvania and Paranormal Activity continuations, and to the extent that I prefer Vin Diesel in anything I like him behind the wheel than in

Steven Spielberg has made defining movies about the Civil War (Lincoln) and World War II (Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List) but the Cold War eludes his grasp in Bridge of Spies, his fourth film to star Tom Hanks. Structured around the construction of the Berlin Wall, Bridge of Spies ends, metaphorically and too easily, with its fall. Lacking the urgency of Munich (2005) and its forward-thinking topicality, the film is more of a museum piece, closer in effect to Amistad (1997).

It is, to be sure, a very handsome exhibit. Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski’s preferred blown-out style of lighting transforms actual locations and the fabrications by Adam Stockhausen (The Grand Budapest Hotel) into splendid period sets, a chess board for spy games that begin in 1957 Brooklyn. Spielberg’s command of

noconcessionsI’ll say this for director Denis Villeneuve–he knows where the bodies are buried. His last film, Prisoners (2013), uncovered a rotting corpse, reveled in details of missing and dead children, and tossed Hugh Jackman into a pit. If I want someone beaten up, ditto–over the course of two and a half hours, in between exhumations, Jackman punched a kidnapped Paul Dano into a twitching mass of hamburger.

Villeneuve’s new film, Sicario, is a half-hour shorter, so it has to pack more in. It begins with  FBI field agent Kate (Emily Blunt) discovering 42 cut-up corpses

noconcessions“Never let go,” reads the ads for Everest. As if, I thought, slumped in my seat, as noted character actor after noted character actor perished atop the fabled mountain, as a tragic incident in 1996 was duly recounted. I enjoy “mountain movies,” a genre the Germans pioneered in the silent era, and though movies like The Eiger Sanction (1975), Cliffhanger (1993), and Vertical Limit (2000) pretty much stay at base camp in terms of artistic merit they rarely fail to grip me. So I got on my crampons and ascended to the top tier of my local IMAX theater, the better to watch the story unfold in three dimensions. (Everest‘s first-week engagments are 3D only.)

Based as it is in a true story, one that has inspired several books, a TV movie, and an IMAX documentary, don’t go in expecting a

Warner Brothers, which has given us gangland classics like Little Caesar (1931), White Heat (1949), and Goodfellas (1990), adds to its arsenal another engrossing entry, Black Mass, from the twisted saga of James “Whitey” Bulger. But gangsters weren’t uppermost on my mind as I watched. To me it’s almost like a Frankenstein story, with an ambitious FBI agent, toying with dark forces, creating an uncontrollable, havoc-wreaking monster.

The parallels aren’t exact. Bulger, who had done time at Alcatraz before returing to his roots in Boston’s tough “Southie” neighborhood, was already damaged beyond repair by the mid-70s, a sociopath who lavished attention upon cats, old ladies, and his mom when he wasn’t

noconcessions1Hard as it is for would-be blockbusters like Tomorrowland, Terminator: Genisys, The Fantastic Four, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E to find favor with ticket buyers, it’s harder still–impossible, almost–for independent films to drum up much support in a marketplace where they’re scatttered among different “platforms,” in search of niche audiences that may not know where to find them, or know what they’re about if they blunder into them. The biggest “hit” in that sector, if one can call it that, is a spring release from The Weinstein Company, Woman in Gold, which has grossed about $33 million. Little else has come close to reaching even that modest sum, with a summer bright spot, Mr. Holmes, at about half that.

It’s a depressing scenario, until one considers the plight of foreign-language releases, which are doing merde business. Not that they make it easy on themselves: the German history riff on Vertigo, and every plastic surgery potboiler you’ve ever seen, Phoenix, doesn’t really rise from the ashes of old movies until its last scene, and while admiring star Nina Hoss I’m conflicted about the repeat pilfering of her frequent director, Christian Petzold. Still, at least it has a distributor that’s pushing it: TWC, flacking Helen Mirren and Southpaw, films that don’t exactly

noconcessions1As literary figures go, Sherlock Holmes, birthed in 1887, has been well-served by 20th century media. Looking through my DVD and Blu-ray shelves I can find numerous good adaptations, some traditional and some free, ranging from the Basil Rathbone pictures in the 30s and 40s beloved by me and my dad to The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), A Study in Terror (1965), They Might Be Giants (1971), and The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976). On TV, Sherlock and Elementary have brought the sleuth into our era of social media. (And Robert Downey, Jr. has turned him into an action figure, not one of his more rewarding modes.)

Now comes Mr. Holmes, which, sometime in my declining years, I look forward to seeing in repertory with Young Sherlock Holmes (1985). For this is old Sherlock Holmes, 93 in fact, and retired quietly

noconcessions1Though the competition is great, I vote the sequence where the T-rex emerges from the rain and the darkness in Jurassic Park as the best directed and most suspenseful action sequence in all of Steven Spielberg’s movies, including my beloved Jaws. My girlfriend gripped my hand tight; the audience around us screamed and laughed, at the little humorous beats slipped seamlessly into the breath-holding dinosaur action. I had a different reaction.


I wasn’t crying, exactly. These were

noconcessions11988’s Brian Wilson is one of my very favorite albums. Around the time of its release, I read in Rolling Stone or Variety or maybe both that a biopic was in the works, with William Hurt as Wilson, who had come out of a foggy epoch of mental illness to record what was his first solo album after all those Beach Boys hits of the 60s, and Richard Dreyfuss as Eugene Landy, the unconventional live-in psychologist who got him into shape for the task. “Good casting,” I thought…and that was the last I heard of the project, which, as we now know, was premature, to say the least.

Fun, fun, fun, the recording was not, as Landy, who in 1992 was exposed as a charlatan and a quack of the kind peculiar to Southern California, pretty much whipped the hapless, overmedicated Wilson into shape for the recording sessions. Love & Mercy, a Brian Wilson biopic at last, goes into this tormented

noconcessions1Mad Max: Fury Road is, among other positives, a time machine for film critics of a certain age. A few minutes in and I was back in front of HBO circa 1980 watching the original Max Max (1979), probably for the 100th time. Then I flashed back to me and my dad, who also got into it, at the defunct Rockaway Townsquare Cinema taking in The Road Warrior during that magic summer of 1982; grooving on its kinetic energy, old enough to drive myself to the theater (more sedately than Mel Gibson) I saw it at least twice more. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) didn’t really grip anyone’s imagination that strongly, but there I was, too, up to my ankles in Bartertown pig shit and Tina Turner.

The gargantuan scale of the new movie takes some getting used it. Thunderdome was much bigger than The Road Warrior, but this is crazy big, and like the imprisoned Max

noconcessions1In Maggie, Arnold Schwarzenegger has a teenage daughter who’s a zombie. Not the usual, comatose-on-the-couch, waiting-for-a-boy-to-call zombie, but a zombie zombie–a victim of the “necro-ambulatory virus,” which, having ravaged our cities, is burning through the heartland, killing all plant and animal life and transforming infected humans into the undead. “Get to the chopper?” More like: “Get the chopper!”

A chopper, of the kitchen implement kind, is wielded during Maggie, but not by Arnold. Since his stint as the “Governator” of California ended, the muscleman-turned-actor-turned-superstar-turned-politician has been doing good work in movies, not that you’ve seen Escape Plan, with his action contemporary Sylvester Stallone, or his full-throttle modern Western The Last Stand. And you probably won’t be